But we preach Christ crucified

Paul, the former anti-Christian oppressor, had an vision of Jesus Christ that completely changed him. He became a pro-Christ evangelist. He wrote half of the Christian scripture. He applied his deep studies in the Jewish scriptures before his conversion to the surprise ending of those scriptures after his conversion.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth he tells them, 1 Cor. 1
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

He was a highly educated Jew, and no argument from Christians changed him. He was not opposed to oratory, he engaged in it, but he knew, by itself, reason was powerless. For Paul, Jesus was the completely unexpected ending that only made sense post-conversion. The execution of Christ was not what was supposed to happen to the anticipated Jewish Messiah, even though several other pretenders had come and gone promising Davidic deliverance.

Metaphorically, Paul's previous glasses which he read the Jewish Scriptures broke and were replaced with the Jesus spectacles, allowing him to read everything as if for the first time. No longer was Abraham the epitome, nor Moses, nor Elijah, nor David; they all stood in contrast to Jesus (also none of them rose from the dead). In his second letter to Corinth he explains this transition from veiled to clarity. 2 Cor. 3
14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Verse 17 is a hint at his approach to those scriptures. God is found in the passages that bring liberation, not those that burden the readers. I think when Paul writes he preaches Christ crucified, he is talking about pulling back the veil. The veil makes contrast difficult. The bright light of the the life and teachings of Jesus enhance the contrast. Jesus overrules Moses, eye for an eye is out, adulteress executions are out. Jesus overrules Joshua, we are to love our enemies. Jesus negates Elisha, he doesn't feed his opponents to bears. Jesus is greater than David, winning by dying, not by killing.

Paul describes what he preaches, not prescribes it. However, in my life time in fundagelical churches, I've heard a lot of unveiled scripture teaching without revealing the concealed Jesus or not about Jesus at all but something spiritual, or political or ethical. Every part contributes to the story, whose main character is Jesus. It's like a great mystery novel. Some parts are misdirections. Some parts are important clues. The minor characters are complex, partly right and partly wrong. It's the bright light of Jesus that reveals all these things. I think everyone should hear how the story and how each part contributes to it. It's the greatest story ever told, according to some.


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